Hiring managers in many companies do not understand the value of an effective job description.  One client said, “Just find me C++ programmers.”  When I asked if he was mostly interested in application programmers or software engineers, he simply looked at me.  If we found the right people, we would not waste his time reviewing resumes.  After taking the time up front, he was happy with our results.


The job description is the foundation of an effective recruitment process.  The best job descriptions provide talking points during manager/employee update conversations during the year.  These updates help the semi-annual and annual reviews go more smoothly because there are no surprises.


On the other hand, if the job description is hastily created the corporate recruiter will have a difficult time zeroing in on the best talent.  Then Human Resources is targeted as inefficient.  The blame seemingly never falls on the hiring manager. 


If HR is truly going to be a business partner, the department needs to act like one.  Since the hiring manager knows their requirements, they need to take the time to get it right.  This is the beginning of their due diligence.  Ask M&A CFO’s what happens when they take shortcuts.


To create an effective job description, ask the manager the following questions:


What are the day to day duties?

What are the weekly duties?

What are the quarterly duties?

What are the yearend duties (if any)?

What special projects are expected to be completed?

What strategic projects need to be completed?  What planning needs to occur?


What are the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals for this position?


If these answers are on target, the skills and experience to be successful in the first year become crystal clear.  Then building a detailed interview becomes much easier and more relevant.


What are the advantages of asking for the goals? 

1) During the interview process, you discuss the goals with every candidate.  On the first day, the manager discusses the goals with the new employee.  During the one on ones, the manager has a track to ask progress on goals and ask if there is anything they need to do to progress them.  As a result of using this process, there are no surprises at annual review time.

2) Some candidates will decide not to apply - and that is okay.  No point in taking the time with someone who isn't interested.

3) Some managers need to take the time to truly think about their expectations.  This exercise helps retention because everyone is on the same page from the beginning.


This process works because HR and the hiring manager are a team trying to find the best qualified candidate who is a fit.  It becomes easier to identify the "C" level (as in not A or B level) manager who does not want expectations to live up to.


Once you have these responses and are crafting your job description, look at similar positions on Monster or CareerBuilder.  This way you may be able to add duties that may have been missed.  It's a double check exercise.  It also enables the HR professional to touch base with the manager one more time to see if they want the additional duties/required experience tweaked.  Remember EEOC.


The job description is the foundation of the recruiting process.  If you get it right, recruitment flows.  If you don't, the balance of the recruiting process may be painful and retention will suffer.

Views: 1697

Comment by Geoff on January 27, 2012 at 11:29am
Hi Bill
Excellent article, thank you.
How many times as recruiters do we get 'knocked back' by hiring managers because the job spec falls short of the actual role.Time spent 'up front' getting the role right; skills, apptitudes and attitude, will all assist in the matching process. We all aim for 100% fill rates following these guidelines will assist that process.
Comment by Chris Russell on January 28, 2012 at 9:19am

Awesome questions! I wish more recruiters followed this example


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